With E3 2019 just around the corner, Microsoft has a huge press conference on their hands. The show will happen on June 9 and should focus heavily on next-generation consoles and games. With two new pieces of hardware rumored to launch next year, it appears we are entering the final stages of the Xbox One’s lifecycle. With this, we typically see one or two major titles release before the switchover that takes full advantage of the current system and its capability. The original Xbox saw Forza Motorsport launch just six months before the next system. With the Xbox 360, 343 Industries dropped Halo 4 the year prior to the Xbox One. This time around, Microsoft will be hoping that Gears 5 will provide a memorable closing chapter for their current system.
How Gears of War 4 Moved Forward
Gears 5 will be The Coalition’s second mainline installment in the franchise since becoming the new developer. On a technical level, Gears of War 4 was no slouch, being the first title in the series to bring 1080p/60FPS multiplayer. The development team upped the ante a year after launch when the Xbox One X version gave us 60FPS at 4k. So it goes without saying, I’m expecting big things on a technical level from The Coalition’s sophomore effort. Aside from Forza Motorsport 7, we’ve seen little on the first party side that takes real advantage of the Xbox One X. With that in mind, the final chapter for the Xbox One could also be the first exclusive title to fully utilize all that Xbox One X juice.
When it comes to gameplay, Gears of War 4 didn’t do quite as much to push the series forward. It stuck to what fans knew and loved, intentionally so for a new studio taking the reins of a huge franchise. The Coalition felt it needed to prove itself in handling the IP, and was successful in creating a proper Gears game. That stop and pop cover, the kinetic roadie run and the hefty shooting mechanics all felt just right. Three years on, I, among others, would like to see Gears of War do a little bit more to establish itself for the foreseeable future. The first entry from a new studio has the ability the play it safe, but for the franchise to remain relevant on a huge scale, The Coalition must take a few risks to freshen up the formula.
Looking to the Other Side
Acronym aside, God of War is an apt comparison for how the franchise could develop its world. Both series put action first, story after. Both series have a gruff, angry dude running the show. They both also had an average spin-off release toward the end of the last generation which could have tanked either franchise. Since then, Gears has found steady ground after the IP acquisition and God of War has reinvented itself.
I’m not saying Gears 5 needs to go that far, but it could certainly take a leaf out of Kratos’ book. The relationship developed between Kratos and Artreus meant that the journey within God of War 2018 had greater meaning, more emotional impact. Gears of War does have a certain personality to it, which it should definitely try and retain, whilst adding depth to its backstory. There are definitely some characters in the Gears universe that I would be happy to see develop further.
Thematically, we clearly appear to be witnessing some changes. The majority of the marketing material is focusing around an ice cold theme, in stark contrast to the typical crimson color scheme. Frozen tundras appear to be in, along with a new main protagonist; Kait. Last year’s E3 trailer also showed off new transportation methods, hinting at more open level design. These changes combined with more environmental variety and a new story arc following Kait certainly looks refreshing for the series.
More Multiplayer Modes
Outside of campaign mode, Gears has long been a powerhouse of multiplayer options. Over the course of the series, plenty of additional modes have been added. None have been quite as influential as the seminal horde mode introduced in Gears of War 2, which so many games have since emulated. Beast mode was a brief addition in the third entry, allowing players to flip the structure of horde on its head. This locust focused mode didn’t quite take off and was not brought back for Gears of War 4. On the competitive side, PvP options have remained a little more alike from game to game. The 5v5 format has been largely stuck to, and any new game modes haven’t strayed far from the likes of TDM, King of the Hill and Guardian. It’s in this area I’d like to see The Coalition look at another Microsoft studio for some inspiration.
Since 343 Industries introduced Warzone mode in Halo 5, I’ve always felt it’d be a good fit for Gears. Halo managed to retain its small-team competitive PvP by making this mixed mode a separate entity, and Gears could do much the same. Imagine fighting in large scale arenas with a mixture of real players and computer A.I. Huge COG junkers and ravens squaring up against a whole host of large locust monsters. Remember the ride-able Reavers from Gears of War 2’s campaign? Or that huge Brumak you got to control in the same game’s final chapter? A Gears 5 rendition of Warzone could be absolute chaotic fun, and I’m totally down for a fresh new mode on a larger scale.
Gears 5 is coming, and we know the core of the game will be fantastic. If this new entry can evoke some of the character building from Sony’s own GoW, whilst looking at Halo to build out its vast array of multiplayer options, this next entry in the series could become a real swan song for the Xbox One. While all eyes will be on next-generation at Microsoft’s E3, mine will also be looking firmly at The Coalition. Gears Of War is my personal favorite Xbox franchise, and I hope it can thrive as Microsoft moves forward.